Thursday, May 26, 2016

Punishment: Correction vs. Prevention

A recent post over at The Secret Life of Miss Lily on the subject of punishment got me thinking about some things.  I know these are topics I have written about before, but here we go again.

I've realized over the years that there are two schools of thought on punishment, each of them having their own common "catch phrase" of delivery.

1, The punishment should fit the crime.
2. Punishments should make the sub think twice before breaking a rule.

The first style treats punishment as a fair and corrective measure.  A minor offense leads to a minor punishment.  A major offense leads to a major punishment.  Ideally, the punishment is "bad enough" to where the sub stops breaking rules.  I think of this as "punishment as a corrective measure."

Punishment as a corrective measure is probably the most fair and common method when it comes to punishment.  A sub does wrong, he pays his dues, it's all good again.  If he's smart, he learns to do less wrong over time.  Simple and effective, functional for training purposes.

The secondary style serves as the foundation for a philosophical concept known as deterrence.  This is the idea that if the punishment is bad enough, the rules won't be broken in the first place.  The easiest example of this is handicapped parking and ~$250 fine.  This is a larger fine than driving 25mph over the speed limit in a residential zone.  Parking doesn't harm anyone, so why is the fine so large?  The answer:  to keep people from doing it.  If the fine was $1, I'm sure people who were in a hurry would park there simply to pay the $1 to save time.  At $250, only a few choice assholes do it and the majority of us don't even consider it.  You'll find traces of this ideology in various laws across various countries.

Punishment as a deterrence in D/s is somewhat similar and somewhat different from punishment as a correction.  Unless the penalties are laid out for every broken rule, the first punishment for that offense is in fact corrective, but it goes well beyond what is "fair" in order to be effective as a deterrent.

As an example, if a sub fails to address his Mistress correctly by title, a corrective punishment would probably be in the realm of 1-10 swats.  These will bring back his attention to detail quickly, and hopefully reduce the frequency of his errors.

From a standpoint of deterrence, let's say the Mistress chooses 100 swats.  One slip-up and he's screaming for his life, bruised, broken, and aching for weeks.  After this happens once, it's doubtful that he will ever make the same mistake twice.

People may stand by their choice, but I have to believe there's a happy medium that may do this best.  A place where corrective punishments are a bit worse than the crime, but not so over the top that they can cause trauma.  

In the end, you'll find Dommes that support both styles:  correcting the crime vs. preventing the crime.


  1. Wow, a link to my post. I feel honored. You made some good points there. I had never given ebough thought to the "Punishments should make the sub think twice before breaking a rule." Theory. I am usually a fan of "punishment should fit the crime in practice.Your comment about the possibility of a hapoy medium made me realize that I can see myself administering a punishment to remember in some cases for an offense that I feel a strong feeling about and want to be remembered. I think the occasional memorable punishment can highlight a mistresses concern for her sub and instill enough fear to drive obedience going forward. This is a tool I would use sparingly.

    1. Thank you, Miss Lily.

      I believe your happy medium is better than what I wrote: use deterrence when it's very important, stick to correction when it's not.

    2. Thank you, I take it as a great compliment that you feel that way